Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The caveats of working at home

The good news is I get to work at home and set my own schedule.

The bad news is I get to work at home and set my own schedule.

I have tried so many times to get my work time in the studio onto a set schedule. Once in a while I've been able to actually walk into the studio at 8 or 9 AM and not break for anything until  4 or 5 PM, a normal workday for most people. When you work at home and your studio is right behind your house, it might seem like an easy task to be able to just walk out of your house and go to work, but it never seems to be just that way.

As I write this, I have my husbands car at Maaco for a repair. It's 10 AM. Prior to this, I had to clean my house and get ready to host our AirBnB guests who are arriving this evening. Tomorrow, I have to take my car at 10 AM for an oil change. There always seems to be something, whether it's shopping that needs to be done or errands or doctors appointments or things that just can't happen in the evening, that always seem to cut into my workday.

And then there is the inevitable pile of dirty dishes or the laundry that you tried to ignore to go to the studio and do your work FIRST but it's sitting there staring you in the face every time you come into the house to get a drink of water screeching "WASH ME,  do something about me, sweep the floor for crying out loud!" and inside you're head you're saying, "But I can't, I can't, I'm an artist I have to make pottery and  I have to work, I have to paint!" I try not to succumb until I have made some art but it's a never-ending battle!

 So like today, I probably won't get into the studio and be able to actually get busy with my work until 11 AM or 12 PM. With any luck, I'll get four solid hours of work done before I have to break to make dinner for my husband. I could go back out to the studio after that, but when I don't see him all day we want to spend time together. (Yes, after 24 years of marriage, we still like each other)

I'm not complaining. It's a luxury for me to be able to be an artist and work at home because Lord knows, it doesn't pay the bills. It's just that sometimes I think it's easier to get up get dressed and get in your car to go somewhere else where you have no other distractions but the work that you have to do.

Even though I always feel like I am being pulled in different directions and never have enough hours in the day, I manage to get quite a lot done. One day has passed since I started writing this. I spent my afternoon glazing yesterday and I am firing a full kiln at this moment. I realized that because my studio will be one of the stops on the Chester County Best Kept Secrets Tour, there will be 16 days in November when I would normally still be making things for holiday sales when my studio will have to be all spiffed up and clean for the tour and I won't be able to throw mud around. That means that I have to have all of my holiday inventory made in October.

So I am throwing like a mad woman and making plans for some new paintings and would really like to create a "Millicent and the Faraway Moon Coloring Book" to add to my growing collection of books that I have authored and created. So far, the kiln is full of very affordable items in the $20 range, which I plan to have a lot of on hand throughout the holidays like ring bowls and dip spreaders, tea lights, soap dishes and cereal bowls. There are also a lot of yarn bowls firing right now, an item I need a large stock of because it is my biggest holiday seller.

I have been all about butterflies this summer and I am doing a lot of hand painting with butterflies on what will be wall hangings and plates. I am also making really cute hand painted cake plates, flower plates and flower bowls with stems that act as pedestals. Naturally, the hand-painted items will have to be  a little more expensive as they take me more time to produce.

I am also having a lot of fun making miniature ceramic houses. These would make great housewarming gifts or look cute in a terrarium or just on a shelf. While the kiln fires, it is time to do some more painting on bisque and after that it will be time to start taking photos of new pieces  for uploading to my website and then writing the listings for each one.  Blogging and using social media is the only marketing I do right now and is also a huge time suck.

We'll see how far I get today. Always much to do and never enough time to do it -especially when you're a one-woman band like me. :0)

Photo borrowed from "The Blue Lantern"

Saturday, September 5, 2015

How Important is Art Education?

Please forgive me while I stand on my soap box for a bit today.
I never wear shoes like this but maybe I should :0)

It's that time of year again. Your kids have either already started back to school or they will be there shortly. Does your child's school still have an art program? More and more schools across the nation are eliminating arts and music programs. If they replace them with anything at all it is sometimes with pseudo art instruction performed by an unqualified classroom teacher.

That statement is not meant to disparage classroom teachers, it is just that they are not trained arts specialists.  The major justification for ending arts programs is almost always budget. School districts are constantly complaining that they don't have a enough money for basic programs, so first on the chopping block is usually what administrators and parents see as the most extraneous and unnecessary programs- art and music.

Here are some of the common myths and justifications for deeming art as unnecessary and thereby eliminating it.

Every child is not a talented artist
Every child is not going to be an artist
Training children in the arts has no application to real world (job) success
Art is meant to help children "express themselves"

Here is what arts education really gives to your kids:

The number one most valuable thing that art education provides to your child:

It teaches them to THINK critically and innovate. It teaches them to TAKE RISKS and to see the BIG PICTURE.

Making art is not just about making pretty things or providing some slapdash approach to "self expression" devoid of rules and structure. There are rules in art- Elements and Principals of Design- which provides a framework for making good art and once understood, provides a vehicle for creating good art while breaking those rules and learning to innovate.

Art history provides a cultural framework and point of reference for history and innovation throughout time. Children without skill in creating art are still given an understanding of the cultural heritage of art, get exposed to great thinkers and artistic creators (ex. Picasso, Matisse) who broke from the mold of realistic art making to devise a new way of SEEING and creating.

Art is not always about the end product. The value of art education is more in the processes of creating art and learning about it than in the outcome of making a pretty picture.

Most other disciplines only work on finding right or wrong answers. There is no room for thinking out of the box or for creating a new paradigm. Children who are only being educated in these limiting disciplines will grow to only seek the correct (predetermined) answer, never being able to consider another option and will accept as irrefutable that which is spoon fed to him as fact.

We need to keep raising generations of Picasso's, Da Vinci's, Van Gogh's, Louise Nevelsons and even more Andy Warhol's, whose art was not just pictures of Campbell Soup cans, but a shrewd commentary on our massed produced society as a whole, a concept seen through an artists ability to view "the big picture."

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson- Royal Tide IV-Assemblage

The world needs both kinds of thinkers, both right brain and left. Here is a perfect example:

Steve Wozniak, a left brain tech head computer guy who, left on his own would probably have had his own small company or gone to work for IBM or Microsoft or Oracle or any other computer giant out there at the time.

Steve Jobs, a hippy dippy, right brain college drop out with an understanding of business,training in art and a devoted sense and love for beauty and good design.

It is the combination of these two very different types of talents that brought us all of the elegant and beautiful Apple computer products which many of us enjoy and other companies try to emulate.

The marriage of these two divergent genius brains resulted in something of a lightening strike which created (in my opinion) one of the greatest tech companies ever.

Steve Jobs (standing) and Steve Wozniak (at keyboard)

Is your kid going to be the next Steve Jobs or Picasso or Frida Kahlo? Maybe not. If given the benefit of a meaningful art education, what they can be is a well rounded human being who can think outside of the box, challenge the status quo, consider various answers to the same problem, create something from nothing, use the tools at hand in new ways and make cross cultural and historical connections.

Oh, and they may come home with a nice painting sometimes, too.

Frida and Me- © Karen O'Lone-Hahn